Residents voice split opinions on Utica pool


About 100 people attended Utica’s final town hall meeting on a proposed swimming pool replacement project.

Attendees appeared split on whether they support the project, largely because of how it could affect property taxes.

The April 14 meeting was the third public presentation of the plan for a new pool prior to the May 14 primary election.

In the election, Utica residents will have the chance to vote on whether to allow the village to take on bond debt to pay for a pool, estimated to cost $3,950,500.

A passing vote on Election Day means the village will have the option to take on up to $4 million in bonds – but it would not require the village to take a bond, nor would it set the amount for the bond, other than limiting it to $4 million.

“It does not make it mandatory for the village board to bond any amount whatsoever. It only gives them the authority to do so,” Utica Parks and Pool Committee Chair Autumn Walford said.

The vote, she said, will really be an indicator of whether residents want the committee to continue its efforts in fundraising and planning.

“This vote does not mean we are getting a pool. This vote only allows us and the village board to pursue the options of possibly getting one,” she said.

Walford reviewed a presentation about the pool’s proposed design and cost estimate, then opened the floor for questions, with a two-minute time limit for those offering comments or asking questions.

Questions echoed those asked at the previous two town hall meetings concerning the new pool’s operating costs, how the bond would affect property taxes, whether the village would be able to find enough lifeguards, what programs the pool offers for different age groups, and why the May 14 vote would give such a high bond authority.

Several residents expressed support for the project and the benefits it would bring for families and senior citizens, while others shared their distrust of local government and the bond process.

Questions were answered by members of the Parks and Pool Committee, village board and the village’s bond underwriting firm.

Walford said the village likely would not bond the full $4 million, as that would raise village property taxes more than 40%.

“Our goal is to raise $2 million and possibly, possibly bond $2 million. Possibly,” she said. “If we reach $2 million, we will continue seeking out funds to raise money.”

She said giving the authority for up to $4 million in bonds would allow the village to begin seeking bids from contractors and applying for grants, most of which require a show of public support before granting funds.

If bids come in over budget, the village would not be obligated to accept them.

The design plan and specifics about the project, including a list of questions and answers, may be viewed at under the “Parks and Recreation” tab.

The information is also available at the village office, 466 First St., during regular business hours.

Registered Utica voters may cast their ballot on Tuesday, May 14, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. at the Utica Senior Center, 520 D St.

They may also request an early/absentee ballot by contacting Seward County Election Commissioner Sherry Schweitzer at (402) 643-2883.